Category Archives: Family

Our First Family Camping Trip

I’m not sure if we were crazy or just really optimistic when we booked our camping trip six months ago. In any case, we gave it a shot!

We’ve been to Lake Wenatchee State Park several times and camped here once before. It’s a very family-friendly campground and we chose it in part because of the flushable toilets, running water, showers, proximity to a beach and playground and a few other fun amenities. So, it’s car camping at its finest…

Not long after we got our tent set up the sky opened up and it started to rain. We were not the slightest bit prepared for rain, since there was zero chance of it in the forecast. We quickly huddled under the little overhang of the tent to stay dry and get attacked by mosquitoes! Thankfully the rain didn’t last long and we were able to get a fire and some s’mores going.

Mid-storm my brother and his girlfriend, Becky, arrived! Ben hasn’t seen Uncle John or Becky in nearly a year but seemed to remember them right away and made several requests for Uncle John to pick him up. He really enjoyed spending time with Uncle John and Becky. They were great sports to have spent 24 hours with a toddler.

It turns out it can be rather difficult to get a 2-year old to settle down and go to sleep when there are kids running around, car alarms going off, it’s extremely light out, adults are partying and talking loudly and really when you’re in a new setting. So! Ben fell asleep at about 10:00 p.m., despite our best efforts to get him to cuddle up with us in front of the fire and fall asleep. Once he fell asleep, though, he passed out until 7:15 in the morning, so that was great!

Despite Ben sleeping well {once he fell asleep} neither Alex or I got much sleep. I forgot how uncomfortable air mattresses can be, and it turns out it wasn’t just the preggo who was miserable – Alex had similar complaints. Given the lack of sleep we decided we’d head home a night early. Needless to say, the coffee tasted extra, extra good on Saturday morning.

Side note: how cool are these coffee mugs?! They were a favor at a beautiful wedding we attended last fall.

Milk + camp chair + campfire + super cool Patagonia fleece = happy Ben!

Ben seemed to love all of the time we spent outside on our camping trip. He is such a little explorer and entertainer. We had fun playing in the tent, walking down to the water and playing at the playground. I think we have ourselves a beach baby!

By mid-afternoon on Saturday our campsite was packed up and Ben was snoozing in my lap by the fire {at least we had one success with getting him to fall asleep!}. We decided to run into “town” and grab some coffee from Plain Hardware then go and have a little picnic at our house before going into Leavenworth to show John and Becky around.

Ben was mostly over the idea of sitting still by the time we got out of the car when we arrived in Leavenworth. We managed to have a little time to sit at Cured, our favorite sausage haus, to enjoy a pretzel, bratwurst and beer before we appeased the toddler and went swimming!

Swimming with Ben, in particular at this perfect-for-tots pool, was one of the highlights of my weekend. The pool had a zero-depth entry and a huge section that was 2 feet deep or less. It had a little toddler water slide that was made just for Ben. Ben was wading around in the pool, paddling his arms and jumping up and down – I think he was watching other people swim and trying to figure out how to do it himself! It was so fun to watch.

Before we made the drive home we stopped at the Heidlberger Drive In for some great cheeseburgers and fries. Alex and I love a good diner and this one didn’t disappoint.

All in all, we had a wonderful time on our camping trip. We’re not going to be in a hurry to sleep in a tent again for a few years, I don’t think, but it was such a fun experience to provide for Ben. We are very, very glad we came home after one night, for a number of reasons, but most importantly, Ben ended up coming down with a nasty case of croup on Saturday night/Sunday and we spent the afternoon in urgent care. Poor kiddo was miserable! Hopefully we’re done with the summer illnesses after this one.

The Start of Summer

Here in Seattle we had a nice summery tease back in May. June usually is one of the more annoying months to live in Seattle, though, because the temperature drops back down and the gray skies and drear come back. We usually say that summer in Seattle starts on July 5th, and unsurprisingly, looking at the forecast it looks like that’s going to be the case this year.

Nevertheless, it’s still technically summer! My coffees are iced, I’m sort of in the habit of watering my plants, Ben is stocked up on outdoor toys and shorts, I overbought on sunscreen, our windows are clean, and we’ve got a beach bag constantly packed and ready to go.

We really weren’t sure what this summer would look like, as I’m currently 35 weeks pregnant, so we didn’t want to make too many plans. Normally summer weekends would be filled with regional trips, hiking and lounging at the beach.

We’ve got a bit of that sprinkled into our summer agenda, but let’s just say it’s a good thing we have a great backyard setup for Ben right now.

Ben has been loving touring different playgrounds nearby, having picnics, playing in his “house” in the backyard, swimming in his little pool or splash pad, visiting the zoo and the Bellevue Children’s Museum, and chasing Jackson or dada around the yard.

We are looking forward to our upcoming camping trip, hopefully going to the beach if it ever warms back up, exploring some of the splash parks around the area and taking family bike rides down by the lake.

One of my favorite pastimes during the summer months is sitting on our porch or patio with a nice glass of rose. Wellllll that’s not happening for a while for me. My new drink of choice is a cherry Italian soda! It’s no rose, but it’ll do the trick for now.

Happy summer!!

34 Weeks and Counting!

Since I only made it to 33 weeks and 2 days during my pregnancy with Ben it feels a little surreal to have actually made it to 34 weeks with baby girl. We’re officially in uncharted territory!

{33w3d – one day farther than I got with Ben!}

Last weekend Alex and I took a one-day labor and delivery class since we never made it to that point with Ben and ultimately knew it would end with a c-section. This time around I’m hoping I’ll be able to spontaneously go into labor and avoid a repeat cesarean. Fingers crossed!

We’re a lot more prepared with the labor and delivery basics, as well as what happens after a low-risk delivery. I was surprised to find myself getting emotional thinking about how differently Ben arrived from how the arrival of a new baby was portrayed in the class. Our experience with his arrival was a stark contrast to a “regular” delivery. We missed out on so much and are hoping to have a very different delivery this time around. In any case, though, we know it’s completely out of our hands.

Another preparation we’re working on right now is hiring a birth and postpartum doula to support us through the labor and delivery process, as well as offer lactation and postpartum support once we are home with baby girl.

{32w6d}

We still have a few basic things to do to get ready for her arrival – we’ve got to pull out the infant car seat, wash bottles and pumping parts, buy and set up the pack & play in our room {closet?}, do some freezer cooking/meal prep and finish the “kids” closet in Ben’s room. There’s probably a thousand other little things we’ll realize we forgot we need to do this time around…

Otherwise, all is well here with preggo me and growing baby girl. She’s getting big, therefore I am too! I’m shocked to report that I’m still feeling really, really well these last few weeks – better than the first 30 weeks of my pregnancy. I could do without the heartburn and middle-of-the-night leg cramps, but I’d happily take that over the back pain I had earlier on. In all honesty, all that matters is this baby girl stays healthy and content on the inside for several more weeks and continues to grow and develop. We’re very, very excited to meet her and introduce her to her older brother, but we’re happy to hold off for a little while longer.

Building the Lodge: Framing!

The forecast for the weekend looked pretty chilly and wet. We decided to push potty training back a week {sunshine works better for us} and ultimately do a quick impromptu day trip out to Leavenworth to check out the progress on our house and seek out better weather.

We had a nice Saturday hanging out around our neighborhood and mostly staying dry, then Sunday morning, packed up the car after breakfast and headed towards the mountains. It’s pretty amazing how different the weather can be on one side of the mountains from the other – driving through Stevens Pass it was 39 degrees and pouring with a fresh snowline a bit above us, then as we descended {and nervously checked the weather because we were grossly unprepared for rain} the mountains the rain dried up and the skies cleared. It was a picture-perfect day in Leavenworth.

We scoped out the house, walked around the property and had a perfect picnic in our yard. It was a very memorable day, for sure.

Things over at The Lodge are really taking shape! Since we were there for Ben’s birthday two weeks ago, half of the first floor was framed and most of the second floor {a half story/loft} was framed. They need to frame the two-story great room on the main level and a few more things upstairs on the second level.

We’ve been making tremendous progress over the last few weeks with making decisions. It’s unbelievable the number of decisions we need to make. Thankfully it’s less overwhelming than I expected at this point.

Our builder broke ground and started framing about a month earlier than we expected so I feel like we’re still playing catch up with all of the decisions we need to make. It’s been so fun to see things come together and really start to imagine what the house will look like when it’s done.

The best part, though, is imagining our family and the memories we’ll be able to make at The Lodge.

Ben’s Second Birthday Celebration

For the second year in a row we headed out to Leavenworth for Memorial Day weekend with Ben’s grandparents to celebrate his birthday. It was such a special weekend for us and we’re so grateful that his grandparents were able to join us this year.

The whole weekend was all about Ben! We had a blast celebrating him and enjoying Ben-themed activities.

Just down the block from our house is the fire station and they were hosting a Memorial Day family open house again this year. Ben loved seeing the fire trucks and ambulances and even got to watch a medical helicopter land. Grammy dressed up as a fire fighter and Ben got to sit up in the fire truck.

We had a wonderful time exploring the beach at Lake Wenatchee State Park and shared a picnic and some time walking the beach and playing on the playground. Lake Wenatchee is absolutely stunning!

When we arrived to our rental house, which is conveniently located next door to our property, we couldn’t wait to run over to our lot to check on the construction progress. Framing has begun – they had just finished up framing the basement and were working on the first wall on the main floor. It was so special to see the house being built and get to share that with Ben. Grandpa Fred brought some sunflower seeds for us to plant over on the lot, so we found the perfect spot and will be excited to see them grow this summer.

There were a couple of times we went into town for a change of pace – we had some sausage and pretzels, took a stroll through Leavenworth and got to savor some mid-afternoon treats at the coffee shop.

We opted to celebrate Ben’s birthday on Sunday after Ben’s nap. He opened some really fun presents and we had birthday cake. For dinner, my dad made his famous burgers and potato salad again this year. I ordered the same Bavarian black forest cake for Ben again this year and thankfully he loved and devoured it. He hadn’t really experienced cake last year before his birthday but this year he was a pro.

Ben is very close to outgrowing the pack & play travel crib and made it clear that he was not happy to be sleeping in it while we were traveling. Similarly to when we were in Arizona a couple months ago, Ben woke up in the middle of the night {extremely unusual for him} each night and requested to come in bed with Alex and me. We happily cozied up with him and savored these rare middle-of-the-night cuddles.

Unsurprisingly, the sleeping change resulted in veeerrryyyyy early wakeups in the morning. Holy cow. Alex was nice enough to let me sleep in a bit later while he played with Ben and Jackson. Nap time was all over the place, given the early wake-ups and new environment. After the second day of no naps I decided to lay down and snooze with Ben with the hope that it would result in a longer nap for him. Thankfully it did!

There were so many sweet moments throughout the weekend. One of my favorites was seeing Ben recognize that there was a special celebration just for him – he sang “Happy Birthday to Ben” all weekend long.

Alex and I had the best time exploring the area we’ll soon be calling our second home and seeing Ben experience life out there. We’re so grateful that Ben has grandparents who adore him so much and who he can bond with, despite the distance. It was a very special weekend for us.

Happy 2nd Birthday Ben!

Our little boy is officially TWO! I want to say “I can’t believe it” but really, I can. He’s totally two. And terrific. We have been celebrating his birthday for about the last week – we took a very memorable trip to Leavenworth {post coming soon!} with Ben’s grandparents and we’ve been spoiling him all week long.

It is so remarkable all that Ben has learned, discovered and done in his short little life, and even just in the last year. Alex and I have absolutely loved watching his sweet personality grow and emerge. We adore how curious and inquisitive he is {“what is that?” “did you hear that?” are some of our favorite questions he has been asking lately.}, the natural independence he’s developing and how much of an entertainer he is.

Ben continues to be extremely active and loves to run and climb. He has surprisingly impressive balance – I think he’s got a lot of natural athleticism. Also, he’s going to give me a heart attack real, real soon.

Watching Ben figure out how to walk was one of the most incredible experiences I’ve ever had. It was a slow process because he skipped walking and went straight to running. I think it’s easier to master walking first?

Ben started talking around 14 months – by his 15 month checkup he was saying about 15 words. I remember he picked up on the baby sign language really quickly and still uses signs in addition to saying words like “please” and “more” – especially if he really wants something. Today it’s impossible to estimate Ben’s vocabulary, but I think it’s somewhere between 300-500 words and growing exponentially by the day. We just love having conversations with him and listening to him sing songs. It’s adorable knowing what’s going through his mind.

One of the most mementos events of the Ben’s second year was our land acquisition out in Leavenworth. Alex and I absolutely cannot wait to be able to raise our kids having the experience of spending their weekends in the mountains. We are working so hard to make this a reality and it’s so, so fun picturing Ben and his siblings running around on our beautiful property.

We had some really fun family vacations this last year where we got to spend quality time together with Ben – our trips to Seabrook and Vancouver last summer, just before Ben started to walk, and more recently, our trip down to Arizona. Family time is so important to Alex and me and at this point, it’s our number one choice over pretty much anything else. This little boy means the world to us.

Ben has come to love and regularly request steamed milk when we go to the coffee shop. If you know me very well, we go to the coffee shop a lot. Last fall sometime I got Ben his first “steamer” and it slowly became a little thing we do. I can’t help it – it’s just so cute watching him with his special little coffee cup. He loves it, I love it. It’s adorable.

Alex and I feel so very fortunate to have such an incredible park and playground just four blocks from our house. Spending the day up at the park is one of our favorite family activities. It has been an absolute blast to watch Ben grow up at the park and go from only being able to go in the swings at this time last year to graduating to playing with trucks in the sandbox, crawling around the woodchips, practicing walking in the grass, then quickly learning to climb the toddler play structure and go down the slide with help and then one day not long after, learning how to walk up the big kid steps and go down the big slide all by himself.

While we have so much on the horizon this year for our little Benjamin {becoming a big brother, finishing construction in the mountains, starting legit Spanish-immersion preschool, potty training…} it’s so much fun to look back on our memorable year with Ben. Here are some of my favorite photos or moments/memories from Ben’s second year… {Side note: I forgot how bald he was for sooo long!}

Happy birthday, Benjamin!

Mother’s Day Weekend

Everything lined up to make for a darn nice Mother’s Day weekend in our little house. The weather was absolutely perfect – the icing on the cake!

Ben and I kicked off the weekend with a day just the two of us on Friday. We had a date at the garden store and he alternated between riding in the wagon, running around the store and being slightly helpful {the most helpful was when he was riding in the wagon}.

He was adorable, though, and we picked out some cherry tomato plants, strawberry plants and some herbs. I managed to grab some blooming flowers when he was confined to the wagon. Needless to say, a second trip to the garden store was in order! Since the weather forecast was calling to be perfect Alex and I had grand plans of spending some quality time in our yard over the weekend.

One of my proudest moments as a parent soon followed our trip to the garden store. We went to the Arboretum park and were sitting on the sidewalk having a snack and a little girl took a very big tumble. I think Ben might have seen it happen {my attention was focused elsewhere} and then when she started crying Ben said “go give her a hug!” and got up and started walking towards her. Alex shared he had a similar encounter last weekend when he got a scratch on his arm and Ben kissed it, told him “it’s okay!” and rubbed his back. My heart melted. I’m not sure how he’s already learned empathy – we sure are trying! – and above anything and everything else, I want him to be empathetic and a nice kid. Smarts only get you so far, but being nice and empathizing with others, that’s the makings of a good person.

Alex had a similar moment on Sunday when we returned to the garden store. It had nothing to do with empathy, more just a proud parent moment. He and Ben were sitting down together and Alex took a moment to explain the importance of listening and following directions and holding mama and dada’s hand instead of running off. Immediately after their conversation Ben calmed down and held onto Alex’s hand and responded so sweetly to the directions. Moments like this validate that we’re doing something right!

In addition to the sweet moments, we had some downright adorable moments and firsts on Saturday at our neighborhood block party. The neighborhood association puts on this huge festival and parade, primarily for the kids, and it was so much fun to go to with Ben.

We bumped into other kids in our neighborhood, some of Ben’s classmates, one of the babies from the PEPS group I led and some random friends and acquaintances. It’s moments like these that remind us just how much we love our darling neighborhood – we feel so, so fortunate to live here.

Ben got to see his first parade, which was led by a firetruck {!}, he got to ride a pony, see a reptile show and read some books from the library. We all enjoyed a treat from the coffee shop – “warm milk” is apparently the best thing ever. We’ve spoiled him by getting him a little “steamer” {lightly steamed milk} when we go to the coffee shop now. It’s too cute and he loves it too much to stop!

Somehow we managed to sprinkle in some time with friends into the weekend – we had a really nice dinner over at Ryan and Anne’s on Saturday night, then my cousin, Chris, and his wife and their two kids came over for a backyard barbecue on Sunday evening.

It was a very lovely, special Mother’s Day weekend, indeed. I adored the time I got to spend with the two guys who made me a mama. We had lots of cuddles and giggles and enjoyed our time together.

Building the Lodge: The Hole

In the midst of a crazy week last week we got some unexpected news from our builder that he was breaking ground on our lot out in the mountains! We knew it was bound to happen sometime in the next month or two and were anxiously awaiting the news – it still caught us off guard and seemed to happen really fast!

In any case – Alex and I drove out to our property just outside the town of Leavenworth, about two hours east of Seattle, over the weekend to check out the “hole” in the ground and make sure the excavator put it in the right spot.

It is darn perfect. The house will be nestled in the evergreens, facing out on a bluff atop a river overlooking the valley. I’m not sure how it all came together so smoothly but seeing that hole made it feel all the more real to me. If everything comes together as expected we should be in the house before Christmas, which was what we were really hoping for.

{The view from our future deck – even on a rainy spring day it sure is nice to look at!}

This mountain home will be life changing for us and our little, growing family as well as our extended family and we are so grateful that things are coming together as well as they are. We can’t wait for Ben and his little sister to be able to grow up spending so much time in the mountains.

Baby #2 Update

Like many pregnancies, this one has been filled with ups and downs. I officially reached and passed the “halfway” point and am currently 22 weeks {or 5 months} pregnant.

So far, there have been a lot of similarities with my pregnancy with Ben and some definite differences. Neither pregnancy has involved food cravings, oddly enough. Both were filled with food aversions, particularly in the first trimester, some nausea and a whole lot of heartburn. This one includes some significant lower back pain {darn!!!!} and so far, especially in the second trimester, a “normal” amount of energy.

I remember loving the second trimester in my pregnancy with Ben. I felt almost normal, and that’s sort of the case with this one, aside from the back pain. I’ve been sleeping really well almost my whole pregnancy so far and surprisingly have had less sheer exhaustion than I remember having with Ben. I’m staying up until a reasonable adult time in the evenings and waking up feeling well-rested, which is a joyous feeling, especially since I know what’s coming once this baby girl arrives.

This pregnancy, though, is a little different. I’m more experienced and less naive. While I realized quickly in my first pregnancy that once you see that “yes” on the pregnancy test, you’re never “out of the woods” so to speak, on anything, forever, in the rest of your life.

Experiencing a serious pregnancy complication, as I did with Ben, and living through a month in the NICU is enough to change anyone’s perception of future pregnancies. My worries with the second pregnancy have nothing to do with the color of the walls, whether the theme for our nursery will be woodland creatures or airplanes, nor finding the best “organic, all-natural crib mattress” on the market.

My concerns with my second pregnancy include the hope of a healthy baby at the end of a full-term pregnancy, wondering what labor is like {I never labored before delivering Ben via c-section}, how we’ll adjust to life with two, whether I’ll still get my morning and evening cuddles with Ben, if I’ll be able to breastfeed this time, and hope hope hoping this baby will adjust to napping on-the-go so I can keep up with my toddler. And let’s be real, baby #2 is probably sleeping in a pack & play in our closet.

{19 weeks pregnant}

During the first half of the pregnancy my doctor’s appointments were fairly regular, though because it’s a high-risk pregnancy they included additional ultrasounds. In my mid-point ultrasound this week we got a big scare. The doctor told us after the ultrasound that the baby had a heart defect, which in it of itself could be just fine, but it could be an indicator of something more serious. Fast-forward two nail-biting days to our echocardiogram where the pediatric cardiologist tells us there is absolutely nothing wrong with our girl’s heart and that it’s perfectly normal. It seems as though the ultrasound was mis-read.

In any case, our babe’s little heart is not the only thing developing normally – she is too! We got a confirmation that she is indeed a she {a little doubt in the last ultrasound} – and she’s huge! According to the ultrasound she is in the 85th percentile for size {so that means if she was compared against 100 babies, she’d be bigger than 85 of them!}. Wowza! Our fingers are crossed that she keeps on growing normally and that we get to meet her in late July or early August.

~

Looking back on my pregnancy with Ben:

  • 20-week post
  • 24-week post {and for the record, I don’t think you’re technically 6 months pregnant until 26 weeks. Oopsies! First time mama mistake!}

Big Changes for the Allens

We’ve had kiiiiind of a lot going on since I last posted about our early-March trip to Arizona! Not only has spring come to Seattle, but it feels like we’re in a new season in our family, too.

Just after we returned from our vacation, Alex began his new job. He’s now three weeks in and is working at a very large tech company that is based here in Seattle. So far, he loves it. He really likes the autonomy, the increase in responsibility, and definitely the commute. His office is close to downtown Seattle and he has loved riding his bike almost every day {3 mile commute – hard to beat!} and he is enjoying being in a more vibrant environment.

The transition to his new job has been fairly easy so far in terms of its impact on our family. We’ve adjusted our morning routine a bit, and Alex is getting home only slightly later in the evening. So far, he’s been home almost every night for dinner, which is a goal we both have. Navigating a new benefits system and insurance policy has been pretty straightforward. I expected to feel the change a lot more. Ultimately, all that matters is that Alex is happy, and that definitely seems to be the case.

At the beginning of Alex’s second week of his new job we came to the realization that our childcare situation was not working out as well as we had hoped. Ultimately, we decided that we needed to move on from our au pair and find a replacement for her.

For about a minute we toyed with some alternate ideas that strayed from having an au pair. Then we realized the cost of having to pay for two separate childcare arrangements for our kiddos {once the baby is born this summer} and realized that an au pair fits very well with our family’s desires, as well as our budget.

Things happened very fast once we made the decision to enter the re-match process. We ended up finding Stacey, a lovely British au pair awaiting a re-match in New York. Stacey was available to begin almost immediately and we were able to work out the logistics so she arrived five days after our re-match process began.

We had a few days, though, where we had childcare gaps, so Alex’s mom “Grammy” came out to watch Ben last week. The two of them had such a special time. Grammy has unlimited energy, it seems, and kept Ben entertained and taught him new things all week long. We were so grateful for the time that they had together.

{Decorating cupcakes with Grammy!}

In the background while all this has been going on has been the final pre-construction process we’re managing to get our mountain house ready for building! A huge high five goes to Alex for navigating that. We’re SO SO close to breaking ground.

Now we’re about to start our first full week with Stacey as Ben’s solo caregiver. We’ve had several days of training and getting acclimated to our family and the city and I think she is ready. So far she is fitting in extremely well with our family and she and Ben bonded right away. Stacey is very sweet, comes with a ton of tot experience {baby too!} and is very conscientious and intuitive. I think we are in good hands!

We are very, very happy to be into a new month and a new season here in our little house. I have a feeling this season will be a great one and we are looking forward to it!